Durban - A nondescript house with sea views in uMhlanga was raided by the metro police’s K-9 unit and SAPS flying squad on Monday following a tip-off that it was being used as a drug lab.
Mandrax, heroin and cocaine, worth about R3 million, was seized; 12 suspects arrested and R220 000 was confiscated from a nearby bank vault.
The metro police’s Captain Greg Beavon said the property was under observation from Sunday afternoon after an informant told police the house was a base for the manufacture and distribution of the drugs.
“A known drug dealer’s wife, daughter and son-in-law arrived. We waited half-an-hour (before entering) as we wanted them to continue packing the drugs,” said Beavon.
Inside the house, workers were packaging heroin into small straws and sealing them off, thousands of mandrax tablets were crammed into clear plastic bags and the air was thick with the smell of chemicals.
The suspected drug dealer is now in the police’s sights, and could be arrested soon.
“There’s one person suspected to be the kingpin. This person has been arrested three times before and I’m worried about that,” said Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who visited the scene before the suspects were taken away by police.
“We must work very hard to discover why this individual always gets bail,” he said, adding that police were in “hot pursuit” and could not name him at this stage.
“The kind of information we are getting is pointing to different areas and people, but our main focus is to arrest the drug lords.”
Six men and six women – one a Burundian foreign national – were arrested during the raid, while two children, aged three and nine, were found on the property.
The children were removed by the Durban North Crisis Centre and later handed over to relatives. They were apparently playing inside the house, the drug packaging operation in full view, when the police came in.
A neighbour, who declined to be named, said he often saw the children playing in the garden or swimming in the pool, and never imagined anything “untoward” was happening.
“It is part of the cover,” said Beavon, of the location and look of the rented house.
Beavon said the owner of the house was known and had been contacted by police.
According to a source close to the investigation, a key to an IBV (International Bank Vaults) safety deposit box was also found on one of the suspects during the raid. A search was carried out at the bank vaults.
A raid was carried out by police on another Durban property moments after the uMhlanga house was stormed as a link had been established between the suspects and the known dealer. No drugs were found. – Additional reporting by Sihle Manda